See the rules for Name That Bird here.

Bird & Squirrel Series
Written and Illustrated by James Burks

Bird&Squirrel

Bird and Squirrel are the stars of my son Harvey’s favorite comic book series, which includes Bird & Squirrel on the Run, Bird & Squirrel on the Edge, Bird & Squirrel on Ice, and the latest, Bird & Squirrel on Fire. Squirrel is nervous and practical, Bird is carefree and gung-ho. Together they travel far and wide, finding adventure at every turn. With his bluish color, we can assume that Squirrel is a common gray squirrel. But…what kind of bird is Bird?

James Burks resides in Valencia, California, so I am going to assume we’re looking for a West Coast bird that’s about the same size as a gray squirrel, 9 – 12 inches. We need a long-beaked bird with orange wings and tail feathers, and a yellow breast. A strong bird would best, because Bird carries Squirrel around, like, a lot. Let’s look at some of the obvious yellow/orange birds first.

lesser_goldfinch_glamor_lois_manowitz
Image: allaboutbirds.org

Here is the Lesser Goldfinch, a West Coast and Central American native. Pros, this sort-of-the-right-color bird likes to travel! Sometimes all the way down to Peru. Also, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes their sound as “jabbering”, a very Bird word. Cons, this bird is way too small. Under 5 inches usually. But maybe Squirrel is just a very small squirrel? That would explain some of his anxiety!

On the orange end of the color spectrum we have the Hooded Oriole:

HOOR-Battiste
Image: allaboutbirds.org

For me, the body shape is dead-on, especially that long beak. The yellow-orangey plumage makes a strong case as well, especially when you consider how much yellower the juvenile’s look:

HOOR-MichaelTodd
Image: allaboutbirds.org

Youth would certainly explain Bird’s fearless and fun-loving personality! At just 7.9 inches, this species is still on the small side, but they are also “super strong” according to Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Yes, the black throat is totally off, but Bird might be a special morph. Could a slightly large juvenile Hooded Oriole partnered with a slightly small grey squirrel be the right combo?

I’m feeling okay about these two options, but since gadgets only make birding better, I’ve decided to round out this investigation with my favorite app: Merlin Bird ID. This is run by – WHO ELSE – Cornell Lab of Ornithology and is really helpful for identifying birds out in the field.

I go through the few steps…

…and this little darling pops up:

Ash

The Ash-throated Flycatcher. Am I crazy, or does this actually seem like a good choice, puffy head aside? I mean, in a world where a grey squirrel is blue, couldn’t a brown bird be yellow and orange?

atfly_stephenramirez
Image: allaboutbirds.org

Ash-throated Flycatchers also tilt their heads in curiosity, and don’t need much water – both perfect qualities for adventuring. Plus, Ash-throated Flycatchers can be as long as 8.3 inches, the closest we’ve found to squirrel-sized!

So, who will it be? The Ash-Throated Flycatcher? The Hooded Oriole? The Lesser Goldfinch????

Bird is….a juvenile Hooded Oriole!

197px-Icterus_cucullatus_30
Image: zipcodezoo.com

I know this is a teeny-tiny image, but look how light the black throat patch is on this young Hooded Oriole? Maybe Bird just hasn’t grown into his yet! And Squirrel being a smaller-than-normal squirrel totally justifies his nervous demeanor.

Feeling pretty good about this deduction. What do you folks think??

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